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I Think It's Time to Listen to the Young People

two hands (one young, one old) touching forefingers together

For the last 30 years, our company SOAR has provided team and leadership development programs for groups ranging from youth to corporate executives. (I smiled when I typed that because I’m not sure there’s much difference between the two.)


I have become increasingly interested in the youth of today, and I have a strong desire to discover how I get to be to have the privilege of being in relationship with them.

 I’ve never been one to jump on the band wagon of thinking our youth are a mess, or will be the downfall of society; my curiosity is stronger than my judgment, and I feel they may have something to teach us if we would just stop and listen.  


I decided to get assistance from the best coaches I could find, so I chose to speak directly with teenagers and young adults. Interview after interview, a common thread emerged: parents and adults who were “real” and “authentic” were the ones they trusted and admired.

When asked how they knew an adult was real and authentic, they said the adult was: 
  • Patient with them.

  • A committed listener.

  • Willing to hear their ideas.

  • Caring and affectionate.

  • Honest—they don’t back-stab or gossip once someone walks away.

  • Consistent in their behavior, and able to control their emotions.

  • Willing to cry and share their true emotions, be it sad or joyful.

  • Able to express their anger without rage, shaming, or placing blame.

  • Willing to speak from encouragement and empowerment rather than correction.

  • Able to persevere, no matter what they might be going through.

  • Willing to admit when they were wrong or handled something poorly.

  • Willing to stop what they’re doing to look them in the eyes and listen.

  • Despite the evidence, they hold the young person high and hear their “come from” underneath the words used.


I must admit, I was expecting something more difficult to live up to and was pleasantly surprised that young people just wanted to be seen, heard, and accepted for who they are.


Listening From a Fresh Angle

With that said, do you really think this blog is only about the young people? Let’s go back over the list now and read it from an adult perspective:  

  • Don’t we feel safe to explore when someone is patient with us?  

  • Doesn’t it feel good to share, knowing the person is truly listening and wants to hear our ideas?

  • Doesn’t it feel great when someone shows they truly care with a simple act of affection?

  • Isn’t it easier to trust someone when they don’t display back-stabbing or gossip, giving us confidence they wouldn’t do that to us?

  • Isn’t it easier for us to trust someone and be vulnerable when they consistently display control over their behavior and tempers their feelings of anger or rage?

  • Doesn’t it bring us closer when someone is willing to be vulnerable and express their emotions of sadness, hurt, or tears of joy?

  • Isn’t effective communication great when there’s a space to express ourselves without someone blaming and shaming us?

  • Isn’t encouragement and empowerment part of the fuel that drives us to be at our best?

  • Don’t we share more when we’re not constantly corrected or made wrong?

  • Doesn’t it feel better when someone is willing to admit they were wrong—or handled a situation poorly—building respect between you and reminding you that we’re all human?

  • Isn’t it awesome when a person stops what they are doing, looks you straight in the eye, and listens intently?

  • Doesn’t it feel great when someone holds you in high esteem, and you know they see you as a winner?

  • Don’t we all truly want to be heard, seen and accepted for who we are?


I guess the young people did have something to teach us.

They got to be a reminder that we all want the same thing and to treat each other the way we want to be treated. I believe that if we choose to stay curious and let go of judgment, we can all have the relationships we dream of with both young and old.


Your Homework:

Choose a young person(s) to sit and talk with.  

Ask them about themselves and listen intently with eye contact even if they don’t look back at you.

Stay curious and just let them talk without interruption or correction.  

Show interest in who they are and what they hope for.

While they are talking, see them with eyes of acceptance, privilege and belief in them.

Now go write a list of what they just taught you about yourself.

Share in the comments some things you learned in your chat(s)!
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